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Archie Miller speaks during a press conference held on Monday at the University of Rhode Island to announce him as the new head coach of the URI men's basketball team.

In a year of reflection, one subject Archie Miller kept coming back to was the formula for assembling a coaching staff. It helped mold a blueprint for Miller’s return to coaching, and the new University of Rhode Island head coach followed it in building his first staff in Kingston.

Miller announced Tuesday that he’ll be joined on the bench by assistant coaches Kenny Johnson, Duane Woodward and Austin Carroll. Ben Sander will be the program’s chief of staff and Ryan McCloskey is set to be the assistant director of basketball operations and video coordinator.

“Assembling a staff is the most important thing to me,” Miller said. “I had some time in the past 12 months to evaluate if the opportunity came of how I would want to do things differently. Nothing racked my brain over those 12 months more than a coaching staff - assembling a group of people that could help you build a program, execute the philosophy, the theme, the plan. A lot of time spent.”

Johnson was once labeled one of the top assistants in the country before getting caught up in the recruiting scandal that hit Louisville and several other schools in 2017. Underwood also has big-time experience, having coached at Seton Hall. Carroll is staying on with the Rams after three seasons on the bench.

Miller was sold on a vision for big things at URI and had an easy time making his own pitch.

“This is a very sneaky good place that can at times get lost in the shuffle of college basketball. This is a place that can really explode onto the scene. And if you do it right, it’s a place where hopefully, you can sustain it and build it to last,” Miller said. “In terms of the staff, I wasn’t looking for random people - the hundreds of people you didn’t talk to for a year that reach out about getting a job. This was about me going out and talking specifically that I was interested in. But the guys that came here have great appreciation for not only the program, the players that have been here, the coaches that have been here, but also just what can be done as we move forward.”

Johnson worked at Indiana under Tom Crean and gained a reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters. He helped the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and was part of the Louisville staff when the Cardinals made an Elite Eight run in 2015.

At Louisville, Johnson was involved in the recruitment of Brian Bowen, the player at the center of the investigation into the Adidas recruiting scandal. Johnson returned to the sidelines with La Salle before departing in 2020. He was reportedly terminated. The release of the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations against the Cardinals happened just prior to his departure. Court documents in the lawsuit of Bowen vs. Adidas released in May 2021 suggest that Johnson did not make cash payments to Bowen’s father.

“We are fully aware that Kenny is part of the NCAA notice of allegation that is under review,” Rhode Island Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn said. “Kenny has been fully transparent with us, and he comes to Rhode Island with the highest recommendations from people who have worked with him. He is well respected in the industry and has an excellent reputation as a coach. This is someone who can truly help our program.”

Miller said he and the URI administration did their due diligence before making the hire.

“The first step is to have full transparency from Kenny and his side of things, then working with our administration, the different administrations he’s been with and also having Kenny face-to-face,” Miller said. “We did our due diligence. We have as much information as anybody else has - it’s all public record. Knowing the process as it continues to go down, we’re well aware of what potentially could happen or couldn’t happen. We feel very comfortable that Kenny’s going to add great value here. And he’s also going to be a guy that can bring a lot of power behind our recruiting efforts and a lot of power behind the development of our current team. We’re excited more than anything for him to be here, because he’s a terrific person and a terrific coach.”

Concerns aside, Johnson is a significant get for the Rams and a good fit for the recruiting footprint the program has and will continue to have. Johnson hails from the Washington, D.C., area and has deep ties to the DMV recruiting hotbed.

“As a talent evaluator, he’s fantastic. Great rapport with players. And working at those places with those coaches, he had a lot of responsibility on his hands from a coaching standpoint, but also player development and running the program,” Miller said. “Kenny brings a great wealth of experience. And he also comes from an area that’s a key cog in everybody’s wheel in terms of recruiting base, the DMV area.”

The coaching carousel took an interesting spin with Woodward’s move to URI. The former Boston College standout spent four seasons with head coach Kevin Willard at Seton Hall. Willard was hired at Maryland a few weeks ago and brought in former URI head coach David Cox as a top assistant. Meanwhile, Woodward headed north, back to New England and to the school where his brother played. Brian Woodward played at URI from 2000 to 2004 and was a 1,000-point scorer.

Woodward was a four-year starter at Boston College from 1994-1998, a stretch that included two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He played professionally in Europe for 13 years before breaking into coaching in the New York City AAU ranks. He also worked at Fordham and was part of a successful run at Monmouth before joining the Seton Hall staff. The Pirates made two NCAA Tournament appearances in Woodward’s time there.

“Hiring Duane Woodward, it really resonated with me in talking to the people he’s worked with,” Miller said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kevin Willard. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the country. Just in talking to him in regards to [Woodward], he did a great job there. He had a hand in everything, from scouting to on the court with Kevin. And the player development was something he specialized in. I think our program is going to be built around some of the same values - where you bring guys in and they leave a different way. That’s something Duane is passionate about and I’m passionate about as well.”

While Carroll is a holdover, he also has deep connections to the Miller coaching tree. Archie was a high school player outside Pittsburgh when he first met Austin’s father and former URI assistant coach John Carroll, who was then the head coach at Duquesne. Austin would later serve in various roles on Sean Miller’s staff at Arizona, and teamed with Miller on the 2015 USA Basketball U19 team that won a world championship in Greece.

“In talking to Austin about coming here, he was able to paint a clear picture of how special the place is, what a great opportunity it was to be able to join the University of Rhode Island,” Miller said. “He’s familiar with the league, he’s familiar with the players. Him being from the New England area gives me an opportunity to know a lot of people right away. He helps me get up and running fast. But I think the thing that stands out about him is that he’s a terrific coach. He can really coach on the floor. He’s great with the players in terms of energy and relationships. How we do things, it’s like he’s already been connected to my language, the terminology we use. He’s been a seamless fit.”

Sander was a top target of Miller’s for a role in the support staff. He was a student manager at Arizona before joining Archie Miller’s staff at Dayton as a graduate assistant. He followed Miller to Indiana.

“The first guy I went after was Ben Sander,” Miller said. “Ben will be our chief of staff. He’s a guy I’ve watched grow up. He was a manager at the University of Arizona and was part of a championship program there. He was involved in the day-to-day operations as a young kid that grew up into an adult and watched how it runs behind the scenes. Those guys are so vital. Some of the most important people I’ve been around in my time as a player and as a coach are the managers in your program.”

McCloskey is another URI holdover, having served on Cox’s staff as video coordinator, then director of basketball operations and special assistant to the head coach. McCloskey also worked with Miller on the USA Basketball squad.

“Ryan being there at that point in time, you got a very good sense of how professional he was, how hard-working he was and how good he was working the players and coaches,” Miller said. “Twenty-four, seven he burned the candle. As we moved on, he was a guy I watched become a full-time staff member here, developing relationships with staff, with administration, with academics, with the doctors, with the training staff, and then our players. It spoke loudly to me as I was taking the job and moving into it that Ryan had done a tremendous job here.”

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